Guided By Voices

Bee Thousand

Scat Records

For a band that lingered for nine years in Dayton, Ohio, obscurity, Guided By Voices is becoming relatively over-exposed, having been the subject of articles in Spin, Rolling Stone and Details magazines.

A lot of critics have tried to pigeonhole GBV's pop feel by comparing them favorably to the Beatles, Big Star, the Kinks, etc.

However, GBV defies comparison, as their songs are all remarkably different from each other, let alone from any of the aforementioned pop giants.

Guided By Voices is a great band. Like their previous efforts, there are no songs that infringe upon the three-minute mark, but the twenty songs on Bee Thousand are filled with pop hookery, fantastically idiosyncratic lyrics, strange noise, and occasionally the strange feigned British accent of lead singer Robert Pollard.

Guided By Voices can write songs that on sheer melodic beauty can bring a tear to one's eye. I don't really know what else to say ─ this is a great album.

Helmet

Betty

Interscope Records

It's a cliché to talk about how the word "alternative," and all that goes with it, has been assimilated into the mainstream, but it certainly applies to Helmet.

If it weren't for Helmet ─ and other angst-ridden groups such as Tool, Rage Against the Machine, Soundgarden, etc. ─ those guys who ride around in their Mustang convertibles with their hats on backward as they drive toward their next kegger wouldn't have anything to listen to.

After all, those were the same guys who listened to Whitesnake and Def Leppard in high school, and what is the music of all the aforementioned groups if it isn't cheesy metal?

However, under the new demographics, these groups are marketed as "alternative" even though the only thing that separates these groups from the mainstream ilk of the '80s is that the big hair, hot chicks and cool cars have been replaced with grainy MTV Buzz Clips, short hair and big, baggy pants.

That said, Helmet is the best of these groups. They have some relatively talented instrumentalists, and they sort of do justice to their heavy Slint influence. But their music never goes anywhere.

After three albums, Helmet has yet to have any sort of musical growth, and consequently, all their songs sound the same: monotonous power chords and bass lines, stop/start rhythms, overdramatic singing, bad lyrics and throbbing drumming.

I don't think that will matter to the average Helmet fan, however. The music is still "hard" and you can "mosh" to it ... dude.

Various Artists

DGC Rarities, Vol. 1

DGC Records

I wasn't really sure what the motivation was behind this compilation of B-sides and outtakes from various DGC bands until I read where all the tracks came from.

What caught my eye was the history behind the St. Johnny track.

Basically, DGC called St. Johnny and asked them to submit an outtake of something. St. Johnny told them they didn't have any outtakes of, so DGC told them to write one. As St. Johnny is one of the few DGC artists not to sell well (the rest are also here: that dog, Weezer, Cell, Sloan, Murray Attaway), I quickly realized that this was just a shameless way to get people to pay for DGC's promotion of these artists.

Following this thinking, fans of Nirvana, Hole, Beck, Sonic Youth, Counting Crows, the Posies and the Sundays will buy this CD, like one of the other groups, and buy their album also.

Unfortunately, there isn't much reason for those fans to buy this CD. The Nirvana song, "Pay to Play" is at best a novelty, and an early version of Nevermind's "Stay Away"; the Hole song, by definition, is bad; the Sonic Youth outtake from "Experimental Jet Set" is miserable; and the Counting Crows and Sundays songs are also boring.

Still, the Posies track, "Open Every Window," is outstanding, and the Beck and Teenage Fan Club songs are pretty decent too. As for the rest: there are reasons why St. Johnny, Cell, Weezer, etc. haven't gained popularity ... they stink.